DIY Wine Filtering
Posted May 15th 2012 | By:
This installment of my DIY series involves filtering your wine. To filter or not to filter is completely personal preference. In most cases, the benefits of filtering are purely aesthetic, providing polish, clarity and a more professional product. Nobody likes to drink a glass of wine with sediment and it can be embarrassing presenting your friends and family a wine with crud at the bottom of the glass. Psychologically, people tend to associate sediment with something being off with the wine and people are probably already apprehensive due to the fact that you made it in your garage.
Filtering can also be used to sterilize the wine which removes the yeast and allows the winemaker to stop fermentation before completely dry without using sorbate. This is an advanced technique and beyond the scope of this article.
Whole house filters are made by many different manufacturers in many different styles. Their intended use is to be installed between the city water mains and the master water inlet to the house, thus filtering all the water that the house uses without significantly reducing the flow or water pressure. Most share the same form factor and the filter elements can be swapped between different systems. The most popular manufacturer on WMT is Pentek because they are cheap and widely available in North America. I purchased mine through filterfast.com which was suggested by Wade so kudos to him.
Filtering elements come in many styles and ratings. The ratings dictate how small of a particle can pass freely through the filter measured in micrometres or microns "". It is generally agreed that a red wine should be filtered using a 5 micron() filter element. Any smaller and you risk stripping some of the colour and subtle flavors. With white wines you can use a 1 micron filter element and get that perfect flawless shine. These values are the most popular suggestions on these forums. I have by no means verified the accuracy of these numbers and there are many people that feel you can use a tighter filter without issues. I find that the default suggestion works for me so I've stuck with 5 for red and 1 for white.
There are many options on the housings that are not really required for our application. The pressure release valve is not required and may actually cause more problems with leaking air. Try to get a clear housing as it really helps to see what is going on with the wine as it passes through the filter. My local distributor said that there are not many places that will not stock the clear housings because they are quite a bit more fragile than the blue/black ones. Make sure that your filter housing is always stable and don't let it roll off a table. I have a small chip out of my housing for that exact reason and I can testify to the fragility. That being said, I think being able to see through the clear housing is worth the reduced durability.
It is best to filter at the point just before bottling. It is important that the wine is cleared as much as possible as a wine with too much sediment will clog the filter very quickly. I typically wait until just before bottling and then filter as I vacuum rack between two carboys. You can also filter during bottling if you have a vacuum bottling setup. I have tried many attempts at filtering without using a vacuum pump but I found that gravity siphoning alone will not work in all circumstances, especially with a 1 micron filter or if you do not have sufficient height differential. If you do not have a vacuum pump system, I highly suggest you get one before attempting filtering with a whole house filter system.
Cleaning the filter is very important. As soon as you are finished a batch, you should clean the filter as best as you can. To clean, simply force water into the 'out" port of the housing. When the filter looks clean, remove it and wash by hand. Plug the bottom hole with your palm and force water into the top hole. You should see even more red (if you were doing a red wine) rise to the surface and be flushed out. You should also clean the filter before the first use to get rid of any manufacturing debris. As always, make sure to sanitize the filter before any use.
There is some debate as to the best way to store the used filters when you are done filtering and have cleaned off the filter element. One method is to store it in an air tight container with kmeta solution. Another method is to dry it as much as possible, seal it in a ziplock bag and leave it in the freezer. Another method is to microwave it to remove all moisture and store it dry. The final method I've heard about is to just throw it out and use a new one for each batch. The last one just sounds too wasteful to me. A properly cleaned and sanitized filter will last many batches. Exactly how many will depend on how much sediment you have and how well you store them. Personally, I use the first method and find that it works fine for me. Just make sure to try to rinse out as much of the kmeta as possible before you filter your wine.
- 1 x1 x Pentek 158116 1/4" NPT Slim Line 10" Clear Housing $12.12g $12.12
- 1 x Pentek PD-1-934 Polydepth Filter Cartridge 1 micron for white wine. $4.50
- 1 x Pentek PD-5-934 Polydepth Filter Cartridge 5 micron for red wine. $4.65
- 2 x 1/4" NPT to hose barb adapter. I had a very difficult time sourcing these locally. In the end, Wade helped me out and sold me a few of his spares. $13.00
- 2 x Standard racking canes. $4.00
- 5 feet of 3/8" standard hose. $1.00
Total damage = $39.27
Start off by wrapping plumbers tape on the treads of the hose barbs. I initially didn't use plumber tape but I had some slight weeping so I added the additional security. Just make sure to wrap it the correct direction (clockwise if you are looking at the threads).
Screw them into the housing lid and tighten all the way down until the nut portion contacts the housing.
Rinse and clean your filter element and insert into the housing. Close the housing hand tight. You do not need to tighten it too much to make the seal air tight. Putting too much muscle into it will make it very difficult to open at the end.
Connect your hoses and racking canes and vacuum system. Pay attention to the "In" and "Out" port direction. "In" goes to the full carboy. "Out" goes to the empty carboy.
Here is a video to show the process. Start the vacuum with the filter housing right side up and allow it to fill with wine. Once the housing is full and wine starts flowing from the "out" port, flip the housing upside down. This will reduce cavitation, bubbling and in theory will prevent oxidation. At the end of the process, stop the vacuum as soon as the housing starts filling with air as you do not want to pull oxygen through the wine (in the video I turned off the pump a little late). If there is any wine left in the housing, you can raise it up and let the wine gravity feed into the carboy... or just pour it into a glass and sample your batch.
Filtering will add a level of professionalism to your wines. There is a reason that most commercial wineries do it and hopefully this article has helped to show you that it's possible to achieve the same results at home with minimal cost and complexity.
I am by no means an expert vintner and I'm always open to feedback. If you have any comments, suggestions, errors, flames... leave them in the comments section below.
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